Armed Hostilities

Terrorism, Its History and Constituents

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Terrorism and its Constituents
  3. History of Terrorism and U.S. Reactions
  4. No Negotiations with Terrorists
  5. Dilemma of Dealing with Terrorism and Further Recommendations
  6. Conclusion
  7. References


The number and frequency of terrorist attacks have increased drastically since the twentieth century. Nowadays, the notion of terrorism is known to everyone. Terrorist attacks on the September 11 changed the understanding of terrorism and demonstrated its devastating threat.

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All countries face the difficulty of choosing the most appropriate way to deal with terrorism. Although some scholars support the idea of negotiations with terrorists, it is an unacceptable experience because no democratic country should consider terrorist groups as legitimate organizations.

Terrorism and its Constituents

There are many definitions of terrorism. All of them describe terrorism as a violent behavior. Lutz (2011) writes, “Terrorism involves political aims and motives. It is violent or threaten violence. It is designed to generate fear in a target audience that extends beyond the immediate victims of violence” (p. 2). Any act of terrorism comprises of the particular parts. These essential constituents of the terrorist act explain the nature of terrorism. Thus, the integral elements of terrorism are as follows:

  • Political aims. The political motives serve as a ground for terrorism in most cases. Political objectives differentiate terrorism from other acts of terrorism. For instance, the kidnapping of the famous politician is dissimilar from the abduction of the unknown person. While the latter pursues financial benefits, the first case aims at spreading the feeling of fear or sending a message;
  • Violence is inevitable if speaking about terrorism. Violence is always apparent. In some instances, terrorist groups may require some actions and threaten the government with the act of violence. Such type of blackmailing is efficient especially when the terroristic group has already proved its ability to operate with violence;
  • Target audience is another essential constituent of the terrorist act. Terrorists send particular messages. For instance, destroying of buildings in public places may be a signal of defenselessness for people;
  • Organization. It is impossible for the individual to organize the terroristic act. In most cases, there is some unknown organization. Al Qaeda is the most famous terroristic group that has organized numerous attacks and financed terrorism in its different manifestations;
  • A desire to show power. One more distinctive feature of terrorist organizations is that they aim to demonstrate their validity and mighty. Terrorism is sometimes the result of the past failures of the particular political organizations (Lutz, 2011).

History of Terrorism and U.S. Reactions

Scholars argue that terrorism existed since that time when the notions of society and discriminations were formed. The first mentioning about terrorism dates back to the period of French Revolution. Terrorism is a relatively new experience for the United States of America. The Ku Klux Klan is the vivid example of the domestic violence. It was formed in 1865, and all its members followed the ideology of the supremacy of the white people.

The contemporary terrorism in America commenced in 1961 when the U.S. airplane was hijacked. It was the starting point of the subsequent terrorist attacks by such organizations as Islamic Jihad, Black September, MR-8, and Al Qaida. The response of the U.S. was realized via the implementation of new policies and regulations. In 1977, for instance, the unit of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force) was created to react to the increasing terrorist attacks in the U.S. during the 1970th.

After the events of September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was formed. Besides, President Bush proclaimed that America was going to bring to justice Ben Laden and Al Qaida. The war on terrorism was also announced, and the President assured that no negotiations would take place with terrorists (Freedlund, 2007).

No Negotiations with Terrorists

Some scholars consider negotiations with terrorists as a possible solution to the problem. Supporters of this view state that making terrorists a part of solution enhances the positive outcomes of the deal. The second statement refers to the fact that negotiations require time and energy. Consequently, governments distract terrorist from their primary purpose. One more aspect in favor of negotiations relates to the idea that negotiations can be useful for the better understanding of terrorists’ goals and intentions (Quinney & Coyne, 2011).

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Though these facts seem advantageous from the first sight, they are two-sided. For instance, it is true that negotiations require time and energy. It does not mean that terrorist will be distracted from their primary goal. Organizations are large, and only a few representatives may sidetrack the attention of governments as well. However, other much more serious reasons prove that negotiations with terrorism are no-go.

According to Newmann (2007), the principal argument against negotiations is that “democracies must never give in to violence, and terrorists must never be rewarded by using it” (p. 128). Negotiations can take place only when both sides recognize each other. Thus, participation in negotiations makes terrorist organization a kind of official body. Such recognition is unacceptable as far as terrorists may increase their activity to receive more attention.

The acknowledgment of terrorist groups leads to the weakening of stigma of terrorism. For instance, there is the U.S. State Department’s List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. It was created to anathematize terrorists but not recognize them and enhance their activity. Negotiations with terrorists are useless because it is almost impossible to reach the agreement. Terrorists’ goals are mostly not democratic, and they use violence as the method of influence.

No consensus can be achieved between the democratic country and terrorist organizations as far as interests of both sides are too different (Quinney & Coyne, 2011). Finally, negotiations give terrorists breathing space and show them as a power that should be taken into consideration.

Dilemma of Dealing with Terrorism and Further Recommendations

All governments face a challenge in choosing the most appropriate way to combat terrorism due to the several facts. First, terrorist organizations cannot be attacked as far as they have to the territory. They are invisible. Second, it is impossible to threaten religious followers for whom death and suicide are an integral part of their beliefs (Bock, 2007). Still, these reasons should not be regarded as the ground for potential negotiations.

Dealing with terrorism should be realized on the federal level in the form of necessary policies. First, it is necessary to create robust policies that reflect issues of terrorism. Second, the state has to supply intelligence agencies with necessary funding and assistance. Terrorist organizations are mobile and invisible. It is of great significance to detect them, understand their goals and motives, and forestall them before the next act of terrorism.

Counterterrorism and antiterrorism strategies are essential for the efficient fighting with terrorism. Propaganda of peace in countries that breed terrorism most of all is one of the forms of antiterrorism strategy. Counterterrorism groups should be ready to protect citizens whenever needed. It is also important to use the latest technologies to provide people with maximum security.

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Terrorism is a relatively new threat to the American society. Terrorism can be defined as the act of violence that aims at sending the particular message to the government or society by the unidentified organization. The first foreign terrorist attack occurred in 1961, and it became the beginning of the further threats. Some scientists consider negotiations as the possible variant of dealing with terrorism.

Governments recognize terrorists as legitimate groups during negotiations, give them space to enhance their activity, and attract attention. All these reasons explain the necessity to exclude negotiations from the variants of potential dealing. Instead, strong governmental policies should be implemented. Specialized forces should always be ready to protect society and identify threats.


Bock, A. (2007). Negotiate with Terrorists! Or: Why Terrorism Cannot be Deterred. Web.

Freedlund, D. (2007). Government Response to Terrorism. Web.

Lutz, B. (2011). Terrorism: the Basics. London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Newmann, P. (2007). Negotiating with Terrorists. Foreign Affairs, 86(1), 128-138.

Quinney, N., & Coyne, A. (2011). Talking to Groups that Use Terror. Washington, D.C.: US Institute of Peace Press.

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